Route 1 History

A Short history of Route 1

Imagine a day when the fastest route from Washington D.C. to Richmond, Virginia did not involve I-95, or better yet, imagine traveling through Virginia before even Route 1 existed. There were a variety of roads to choose from but they were not the most direct paths and no matter which way you went, it was a muddy, bumpy, rough ride. That all changed on May 28, 1927.

After over 25 years of consideration, newspaper editorials, town meetings, financial discussions and legislative debate the Jefferson Davis Highway, also known as the Washington-Richmond Highway or US Highway No. 1, was fully paved and open for business! Prior to its opening, surveyors traveled the roadways of Virginia to decide if the highway between the capitals should go by way of Winchester, Orange or Fredericksburg. The Fredericksburg route was selected, and our fair city has never been the same.

The new road went directly through Downtown Fredericksburg, right down Princess Anne Street and out Lafayette Boulevard. The increase of traffic encouraged a variety of new businesses along this now bustling path. Private homes became Tourist Homes (similar to today’s Bed & Breakfasts), automobile service stations sprang up on every other corner and the historic tourist attractions that still bring people to Fredericksburg today, began to prosper. The new highway was key in bringing tourists to Fredericksburg even during the 1930s when most of the country was fighting the depression. During World War II, it was a byway for military vehicles and personnel traveling from Washington D.C. to Fort AP Hill. Military convoys were a common sight up until I-95 was built, and massive tanks have even made their way down Princess Anne Street. When the war was over Fredericksburg shared in the country’s economic prosperity. A new style of roadside architecture arrived with the car culture of America and locations like Carl’s Ice Cream and The 2400 Diner opened. Traffic coming through downtown Fredericksburg was booming. These travelers needed lodging, food and entertainment; and the people of Fredericksburg were more than happy to provide.

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